The Victim Compensation Fund provides financial benefits to individuals afflicted with illnesses related to exposure to the toxic dust plume at and around Ground Zero. If you were exposed to toxic materials at Ground Zero on 9/11 or in the months that followed (anybody who was present south of Canal Street between 9/11 and May 30, 2002 was, in fact, exposed), and you now suffer from cancer, you may have the right to receive financial compensation from the VCF. Read on to learn more about the types of cancers associated with 9/11 toxic exposure, and how to obtain money to help you pay for care and other expenses.
Types of Cancer Associated With 9/11 Toxic Exposure
The World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program is a federally funded program that provides medical monitoring and treatment for health conditions associated with exposure to toxic materials on 9/11 and during the cleanup at Ground Zero that ended on May 30, 2002.
The program maintains a list of covered conditions to which uterine cancer may become the newest addition for which it will pay for monitoring and treatment. Individuals who suffer from a covered condition are presumptively eligible to receive financial benefits from the VCF.
Currently, the list of covered cancers associated with 9/11-related exposure to toxic materials includes:
- Blood and lymphoid tissue cancers, such as myeloma, lymphoma, and leukemia
- Breast cancer
- Digestive system cancers, including cancer of the colon and rectum
- Cancers of the eye and orbit
- Ovarian cancers
- Cancers involving the head or neck
- Prostate cancer
- Respiratory system cancers, including those impacting the lung and bronchus
- Skin cancers, including melanoma, non-melanoma, and carcinoma in situ
- Cancers impacting the soft and connective tissue
- Thyroid cancer
- Cancers impacting the urinary system, including the kidneys and bladder
Suffering from one of the above cancers after being exposed to toxic materials at or near Ground Zero does not guarantee VCF benefits. But it does indicate a strong possibility that you have rights to compensation from the Fund. A skilled VCF benefits attorney can help you get the money that Congress allocated to help you with the expenses and challenges you face.
How Do the WTCHP and VCF Add New Cancers to the List of Covered Conditions?
In addition to creating the WTC Health Program and reauthorizing the VCF, The James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act of 2010 created an avenue whereby any interested party can petition the WTC Health Program to add new types of cancers and other illnesses to the list of covered conditions.
A petition must include your name and contact information, the name and description of the condition they seek to add, and the reason for the request, including the medical basis for the asserted link between a 9/11 toxic exposure and the diagnosis. The administrator of the WTC Health Program can also initiate the process of reviewing a condition for consideration without being petitioned.
After receiving a request to review a condition for inclusion on the list, the Program’s Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee reviews the information submitted and other research to determine if a reasonable basis exists for adding the health condition.
For instance, one of the complicating factors in adding uterine cancer to the list was that most responders who suffered the highest toxic exposures were male. As a result, only research existed into whether 9/11 dust exposure could result in uterine cancer. Only about 3 percent of the firefighters from FDNY who were present at the site on the day of the terror attacks or in the months that followed were women.
Adding uterine (endometrial) cancer to the list of covered conditions will represent an important step in ensuring that all those who suffer from 9/11-related cancers can obtain the financial compensation they deserve for their expenses and medical needs.
Eligibility Criteria for VCF Cancer Compensation
To obtain financial compensation from the VCF for a covered cancer, you must meet these eligibility criteria:
- Register with the VCF before the deadline. The deadline is different for everyone but generally expires two years after you obtain certification of a covered medical condition (or the date of death in the case of lost loved ones), typically from the WTC Health Program. If you (or you lost loved one) did not participate in the WTC Health Program and treated only with a private physician, then it is most likely that you can still register and file a claim even if it is more than two years after you were diagnosed with a cancer or other condition, or more than two years after the date of death. Keep in mind that registering with the VCF is not the same as filing a claim; it merely reserves your right to file a claim at any time between now and October 2090. The rules are tricky, so it’s always best to ask an experienced 9/11 attorney.
- Dismiss, settle, or withdraw from any 9/11-related lawsuits by the appropriate deadline. If you are suing through the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, however, you may still file a VCF claim. However, your VCF award will offset any award you receive from that lawsuit.
- Prove that you were present at one of the 9/11 terror attack sites in New York City (the entire area of lower Manhattan south of Canal Street), at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, or Shanksville, PA, or along the routes of debris removal during the period between September 11, 2001, and May 30, 2002. The qualifying amount of time you spent at one of these locations depends on which group you were a part of: first responders, general responders, and survivors (those living, working, or attending school or daycare in the area).
Seeking VCF Compensation for the Expenses and Impacts of Your Illness
If you have had your cancer certified as a 9/11-related covered condition by the WTC Health Program and you have registered online by your registration deadline, you can file your VCF claim at any time until the year 2090. The VCF recommends waiting until you know the full scope of your economic losses so the program’s administrators can evaluate the claim as efficiently as possible.
Filing a claim is an online process that involves registering and using the VCF website. There, you can download the documents needed to submit your claim, complete those documents, and submit them to the Program. The VCF generally reviews claims on a first-in, first-out basis. However, for cases in which there is an urgent need for funds, such as a terminal illness or an imminent foreclosure or eviction proceeding, the VCF can expedite the review process.
VCF conducts a preliminary review process on all submitted claims, which involves ensuring the claimant has included all documentation necessary to evaluate the claim. If your claim lacks the necessary documentation, VCF will notify you and will place your claim on inactive status until it receives your missing documents.
Once your claim has passed through preliminary review, VCF will conduct a substantive review, decide whether you qualify for benefits, and if so, how much money you should receive. VCF then notifies you of its decision, which you may appeal if you disagree with it.
How much compensation can you receive for your cancer?
The VCF compensates both the economic losses you incurred from your 9/11-related cancer such as loss of your own or your spouse’s wages and benefits and costs of funeral and burial and non-economic losses, which are often called pain and suffering.
The VCF sets maximum limits (caps) on the amount of pain and suffering compensation claimants can receive. Those limits are much higher for cancer diagnoses than for other types of 9/11-related conditions. The maximum amount of non-economic damages you can seek for a cancer condition is $250,000, while the VCF caps pain and suffering for non-cancer conditions at $90,000. But you can receive compensation for multiple conditions, and each covered cancer provides for the potential of additional compensation. In addition to pain and suffering compensation, the VCF will also make an award for past out-of-pocket medical expenses plus any lost wages/benefits, past and future.
A Dedicated September 11 Attorney Can Help You With Your VCF Claim
Since 2001, the experienced legal team at Hansen & Rosasco has helped over 3,000 people obtain close to half a billion dollars in compensation through the federal 9/11 benefits programs. We have a team of paralegals who ensure that our clients’ WTC Health Program applications move along so that their medical conditions can be certified, an important step in the process of obtaining compensation from the VCF. We assist in preparing and filing VCF claims and, when necessary, in appealing award decisions.
Some of our results include:
- $3.4 million for a Downtown Manhattan professional whom 9/11-related breast cancer disabled.
- $3.2 million for a police officer disabled by colon cancer.
- $3 million for the spouse of a Wall Street broker who died from 9/11-related multiple myeloma.